Social Media Experiments, Part I

image courtesy of Thomas Ulrich via pixabay.com

Happy New Year! I hope you had a peaceful and joyful holiday season, and feel optimistic for the New Year.

With all the chaos going on over at Twitter, I spent the past few weeks experimenting on different social media platforms. I’m trying to figure out which does what well, and where my likely audience(s) have migrated, so that I can start targeting my audience with information about my work, and share others’ work that excites me.

A monkey wrench went into that work when my computer crashed in mid-December. I don’t want to have all these platforms on my phone; my phone’s not fancy enough to carry it, and I resent being forced to tie things to my phone anyway. So there was a (much-needed) two week break from most social media. I was pretty active on Instagram, posting photos of holiday baking and decorating, and that cross-posts automatically to FB and Twitter. I also had scheduled posts dropping regularly on several platforms, so it wasn’t like I was totally absent.

Anyway, I don’t have all the information for which I’d hoped, and I’ll do another update probably in early June, and then again in late autumn, to share my experiences and how things have changed over the months.

I am annoyed at those who sell subscriptions to “scheduling tools” for still only supporting FB, Instagram, Twitter, and, sometimes, Pinterest. That doesn’t help. I need a scheduling tool where I can connect to any and all platforms on which I have a presence. I was already less than pleased with Hootsuite and Buffer; while I continued to use them for relevant clients, they’d already become next to useless for my own business. Now, that’s even more the case. I want ONE tool that allows me to connect across ALL relevant platforms, so that I can block off four or six hours once a month, upload and schedule unlimited content across multiple platforms and not have to think about it until the following month, when I gather data and make adjustments. So far, I have not found a tool that connects to everything I need (and I’m not willing to pay for a subscription that does not serve my needs).

Why am I on social media?

On a personal level, I love crossing paths with people with varied interests from all over the world, with whom I might have never interacted otherwise. I have built some real, wonderful friendships online that then transferred to real life. And, during the ongoing pandemic, it is a way to feel less isolated.

On a professional level, it’s to grow my network of contacts in a variety of fields (writing, publishing, film, television, theatre, textiles, freelancing, gardening, cooking, architecture, history, et al). It’s to share information about upcoming, ongoing, and backlisted work. It’s to grow my audience for the books, the serials, and the blogs. Long-term readers of the blogs tend to get interested in reading about a book as it’s written, and then buy the finished book, because they’re already invested time in reading about its creation. I also love to share others’ creative work, and help build their audience.

I want to make clear:

–these are MY experiences, not based on large data studies or corporate numbers. It’s not THE ultimate article on social media and the be-all and end-all. It is simply MY experience to date.

–they are in relation to my own work, not client work. I had already stepped back from doing social media for clients before the whole Twitter kerflamma began.

–I did not experiment with right-wing extremist platforms; those users are not my audience. So there will be certain platforms missing here. There also may be other platforms I haven’t heard about or tried. There are several other platforms that I looked at, and knew they weren’t the right place for me (such as Reddit and PillowFort).

–I have not yet experimented with Tik Tok because I am strictly an off-camera person. If I can figure out how to do short pieces that are about the work and do not require to be shot on the phone or have me onscreen, I’ll expand and play with that platform, too. YouTube is not on this list, either, as again, it’s about on-camera. As a former filmmaker, I’m happy to put others on camera, or play with animation (if I had the technical capacity), but I am not going on camera.

For the first quarter of the year, instead of trying to be everywhere all at once, I want to spend more focused time on the different sites. I’m blocking off bigger time blocks for specific sites on different days, so while I’ll check in regularly on most weekdays, making the rounds, I will spend more time for quality interaction on different sites on different days. Trying to do that on every site every day is too overwhelming. Eventually, I will pare back, focusing on the sites best suited to my work, my interests, and my audience.

As far as people complaining about “not having time” to learn various platforms, how nice to have that luxury. I do not. I need to figure out what works best where, and focus portions of time for each different thing I do to the site that best supports it.

I am also not positioning myself as a “Social Media Platform Transition Guru.” (Yes, I’ve seen people advertise themselves as such, and, in my opinion, blech). I don’t believe any of us know how this will shake out yet. I’m not taking on social media work for clients right now, because I don’t believe I can give them the information necessary to plan the year’s marketing campaigns. I’m learning and sharing what I learn in the hopes of helping someone, not taking their money in exchange for something that doesn’t work.

I’ve listed the sites in alphabetical order:

Bluesky: As of this posting, it has not gone live yet. I’m on the beta testing list. I’m wary – Jack Dorsey is part of the reason Twitter is in such a mess, in my opinion, and I don’t trust him. But I’m also curious as to whether he’ll try to recreate the best of Twitter, or turn it into something more along the lines of Reddit or something else.

Cohost: I haven’t been able to poke around enough on that platform. What I’ve found so far indicates that it skews to a younger audience that’s more interested in gaming and fanfiction than to the type of work I do. Interactions have been pleasant, but my initial sense is that the interests of many of its members are different from mine and what I explore in my work. For the moment, I’m posting steadily, and we’ll reassess mid-year.

CounterSocial: This has become my favorite place for in-depth conversation. It does not work on algorithm. It’s easy to block or mute annoying people, and trolls tend to get ignored until they do something nasty enough to get banned. Most of the trolls weed themselves out, because they don’t get the attention they seek. I’ve run into a few miserable accounts over there, but I simply unfollowed and/or blocked, and that was that. I’ve reconnected with some Twitter pals with whom I’d had sporadic interactions on Twitter due to all the noise and the adjusted algorithms. Now, we can actually settle in and have conversations. I’ve met a lot of interesting new people. And people there tend to click on the links back to the blogs and the books and the other work (especially over to Ko-fi and Substack and the garden journal, Gratitude and Growth). So far, it’s been an excellent experience, overall. There was a bit of a learning curve when I first signed on, and the dashboard is very much like Tweetdeck’s. But when I asked questions, people were very nice about either answering them directly, or sending me to the right spot in the user manual. I tend to block rather than mute. I’m either all in with someone’s varied facets, or all out.

Creative Ground: This is a site for New England-based creatives. It’s not a typical social networking site; it’s more along the premise of LinkedIn, where you put up a profile/portfolio, and people can connect for work or collaboration. I found 48 hours on Creative Ground worth more than 3 years on LinkedIn. I wish there was more of a social media aspect to it, although it’s definitely driven traffic to the serial, the Topic Workbooks, and Pages on Stages, the website for plays and radio plays.

Ello: Ello has been one of my favorite sites for several years. It used to be UK-based, but I think it’s now out of Belgium or the Netherlands. It has a great mix of artists from all disciplines. I get far higher views there than I get anywhere else. Sadly, it can’t drive Kindle Vella traffic, because Kindle Vella is only available in the US. But it’s been a factor in book and Topic Workbook sales, and gotten me quite a few regular blog readers. They also have a section on “creative briefs” where companies are looking for creative pitches, and I’ve got my profile set so people know I’m interested in collaborations and hirings.

Facebook: I’ve had multiple pages on FB for years. I’m not a big fan of the site AT ALL. However, I have some friends and family whose only internet presence is on FB, and if we want to stay in touch, that’s the best place for us to do so. Additionally, for the serials running on Kindle Vella, it’s a necessity, since there are multiple author and reader groups targeted for Kindle Vella. I hate to admit it, but paid FB ads result in higher sales (and the ads can cross-post to Instagram). Right now, FB is necessary to my bottom line.

Hive: I’ve only gotten as far as signing on. It took 45 minutes to upload my profile image. Then Hive went down for a few weeks, due to security issues. They do not have a desktop application, only a mobile one. Since I refuse to have it on my phone, I have to use my clunky old tablet. I hope the upgrades they’ve done will make everything easier; so many writers I know have migrated there, so it sounds like a good place for a writer hang. But I don’t have enough direct experience with it yet to know.

Instagram: Yes, I know it’s owned by Meta and pairs with FB. Makes the cross-posting easier. The purpose for my Instagram has always been to be my “fun” account. Very little promotion; mostly cats, garden, cooking, decorating. I expanded the promotions for LEGERDEMAIN to Instagram (even though I have to rescale all the graphics) and will do so with ANGEL HUNT. It builds audience. I don’t want to tip too far out of the “fun” aspects, but posts there lead people to the site with the buy links. I choose not to use LinkTree in the Instagram bio, because then the metrics go to LinkTree and not the creator. I’d rather drive them to my flagship website, and go from there. I also don’t like all the scammer accounts, and the inappropriate requests for direct messages. I waste way too much time reporting scams and blocking accounts.

LinkedIn: I have always hated LinkedIn. It is next to useless for me. I only keep a profile up because it’s necessary for my freelance writing. I have never gotten a decent lead from it. All I’ve gotten is people wanting me to either work for free or to sell me a course. The worst was when there was some sort of breach, and I started getting emails on my personal email (which is not posted on my profile) from creepy Midwestern white middle-aged men with inappropriate content. Dude, if I was looking for a date or illicit sex, it wouldn’t be here. LinkedIn shrugged it off when I complained.  I have a presence there, but they are not a site I enjoy or use often. I know a lot of people who swear by it and are rabidly loyal. I’m glad it works for them, but it’s too traditionally corporate for the way I work.

Mastodon: People are strident about whether they love or hate it. It’s another site that has a learning curve, and when one is tired and overwhelmed, it’s difficult to get settled. However, again, I’m finding some interesting people there, especially other creatives across a wide range of fields. I was lucky enough to be invited onto an “instance” (server) by a screenwriter, so my “home” is within my field.

For navigation, I find that “home” is where I’m building community, and I always check that second (after “notifications”). There are people from all different servers/instances with similar interests who I follow and/or follow me. Then, I check the “Local” feed, which is the feed of my home instance/server. Since it was started by a screenwriter and is primarily screenwriters and other film pros, I can get a lot of my industry information there, and also talk about projects, and celebrate or commiserate with others on their projects. The “Federated” feed is the general feed, from all over, and I go over there last, when I’m trying to find more people or reach a wider audience. I then find people to follow, and they turn up in my “home” feed.

Finding individuals can be complicated, if you don’t already know their Mastodon handle. But if you go up in the search box and search by hashtag (like #writer or #screenwriter or #Knitting or whatever), you have a good chance of finding whom you seek, plus a whole lot of other interesting people. When I first signed on, there were too many Content Warning police – to the point where any talk about one’s work or just about ANYTHING was demanded to be put behind a content warning. I’m sorry, but if you call yourself a “writer” and it depresses you to the point you need a content warning if someone else lands a deal or has a release, curate your feed for that; don’t expect everyone to do your administrative labor for you for free. I checked the Code of Conduct on my instance, and there’s nothing that says discussions about my work need to be behind a CW. So, instead, I block anyone who whines about it, and my life and feed are better for it. As I said up in the CounterSocial paragraph, I tend to block rather than mute. BIPOC have mentioned concerns that Mastodon’s demands for CW flash too much white privilege and suppression. In many cases, I agree; my experience is it has a lot to do with one’s instance and how one sets up the feeds. Mastodon had a surge, and then a lot of people left; those who are still there tend to give each other more room to share experiences and have discussions without calling everything a trigger. Overall, my experience has been more positive than negative to this point. Again, I don’t have the metrics for sales, but users definitely follow links back to the material and then talk about it, and/or boost it.

Pinterest: I’m redefining my relationship with Pinterest, to see how I can make it a tertiary support to the work. I’ve used it for my own inspirations, but I also want to do more with visual inspiration boards that I can share as part of my creative process. That is on the agenda for 2023. When I was deeply active on Pinterest, waaaaay back when, I had a lot of fun with it.

Post: I was on the waiting list for about three weeks, before I could sign on. At first, I was worried it was Very Serious, but as more people sign on, with a wide variety of interests, it’s fun to read, in-depth posts, about those interests. I have not explored monetizing posts there yet, and I’m not sure I will. So far, I like the interactions and the calm but lively discussions. I need to spend more quality time there, and dig deeper. It’s a good place to read about a wide range of topics, and then use it as a jumping off point for further research. I anticipate using it as a place to find people to fact check information I use in my books when I research, or to point me toward reference materials. As far as how it translates to growing my own audience, it’s too early to tell. I signed on only a few days before the computer crash.

Ravelry: This is a social media site for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and other fiber artists. It’s one of the few where I use a different handle, to keep it a little separate from the rest of my social media interactions. I’ve just started dipping my toe into it. I got some interesting patterns, but I also wound up being spammed via email mercilessly by a company who ignores my requests to unsubscribe. I hope to spend some quality time on there this winter, as I work on knitted and crocheted projects. I’m not on it to drive audience to my work (unless I start up The Tactile Muse blog again).

Spoutible: At the time of this posting, it has not yet launched. It’s supposed to go live in early February, I believe. I’m looking forward to it. I like the people who are behind it.

Tribel: This one has been kind of a wild ride, so far. When I first signed up, there were a lot of familiar handles from Twitter. Tribel encourages people to “follow” each other, but only “friend” people you actually know in real life. However, early on, I was getting a lot of friend requests from weird white dudes who wanted to send inappropriate messages. I’m more careful about follows, too. There are too many accounts over there with no bio or any other information, so I’m leery of just doing follow-for-follow. Also, you have to choose a topic under which to position your post (most of mine are under “fiction” but I have some under “gardening” or “foodie” or “tarot”). The categories are frustrating, because they’re limiting, and one can’t post without choosing a category. It tries to force too much niche, in my opinion. But then, I am the Anti-Niche.  It works on algorithms, likes, boosts, etc. I haven’t seen evidence of it translating into website hits or sales, but the year-end data on some of my sites won’t be ready for another week or two.  I post regularly, but I need to spend some more time digging deeper, looking for people with similar interests, and cleaning out the weird, botlike, or skeezy accounts out of my feed. There’s a lot of screaming and many posts that remind me of Twitter at its worst, and I want to navigate away from those. I’m going to put some more time into it before I make a decision.

Twitter: I’ve been on Twitter for going on 14 years now. That’s a looooong time in terms of tech. Twitter used to be the best source for high-paid freelance jobs, and I landed some of my best clients there. It’s been a huge source of audience reach for the fiction, the classes, the serials, and the Topic Workbooks. When I was fighting cancer the first year of the pandemic, and going through the Move From Hell in 2021, the support on Twitter made a huge, positive difference. When I go on now, too often, it just makes me sad.

I have no idea how it will play out on that site. I’m tempted to lock my account, but then I can’t get the audience spread from retweets that’s a big source of incoming traffic to my sites. Basically with Twitter, I’m in a holding pattern as far as social interaction. As of the end of 2022, it was still driving a lot of traffic to the Topic Workbooks, the serials, and my blogs. I’m doing a lot of blocking, and a lot faster than I used to. At the same time, I’m also finding some cool accounts, especially several focused on textile history and fashion that got lost in the previous feeds. I’m hoping Twitter can course-correct (change of ownership, perhaps). But, even so, it won’t be what it was, because the world changes. Twitter has changed over the years, and not always for the better. We’ll see. I hate to lose it, but it might have run its course and it may be time for different virtual “town squares” to build that learn from this platform, and build something even more powerful and useful.

WT Social: I deactivated my account within 48 hours, due to the misogyny and nastiness on the platform. Not for me, at all.

I’m on some other platforms, too, which aren’t really social media. Substack walks the line between social media, subscription service, and newsletter. Their metrics are clear and strong, and it’s easy to see where growth is happening, and where interest lags. I love having The Process Muse over there, and love the growing community, although there’s so much excellent content, it’s often difficult to keep up. The readers there tend to follow embedded links into my other work. I vastly prefer it to Medium, which did not work for me at all, creatively or financially. Ko-fi has been a fun place to put weird little pieces that don’t really fit anywhere, along with tarot and oracle spreads. At this point, I haven’t figured out how to monetize it properly. It’s more of a playground. I’m on BookBub, but haven’t yet utilized it to its full potential. I may join Litsy, although that’s more about taking about my reading rather than my writing. Which isn’t a bad thing, especially considering how much I read; it’s just a case of figuring out if I can afford the time, or if that time needs to be spent promoting my own work elsewhere.

As always, I find that my websites are the best basecamp, so I try to link back as much as possible to the websites.

Again, this is my experience, based on a few months’ worth of experimentation and interaction during a busy time, and then a break when the computer was in computer hospital. I’d hoped for more dynamic metrics, but, because so many of the sites aren’t ad-and-metric driven, it takes longer to see where the results of creative calls-to-action shake out.  I’m sure the experiences will grow and change on each platform as the population changes. People are going to try things and not like it. They will move to different platforms and try different things until they find something that meets their needs. Platforms have risen and fallen in that way since they began. I do still miss those original CompuServe bulletin boards. Those were fun, and quite the learning experience.

What new platforms are you experimenting with? What’s your experience on them?

Spring Refreshers

image courtesy of Kerstin Riemer via pixabay.com

It’s spring.

Well, sort of. Here in the Berkshires, we have 60 degrees one day and snow the next. But there’s a potential for spring.

Spring motivates a desire to clean house and freshen things up. As you do this to your physical space, don’t forget to do that to your virtual space, too. What should you do and how?

Websites

Visit your websites as though you were a stranger. Read through every page and take notes. Does the content make you want to hire this individual?

If the answer is no on any of the pages, rewrite the content on the site so that, if you were a stranger looking for someone in your field to hire, you would hire. . .you.

Take out passive language, and make it active and engaging.

Update clips, samples, portfolio pieces, rates, and the scope of your services. As our careers grow and change, we want to focus on different services at different times. Update your website to reflect that.

Are there visuals you want to add? Is there information that’s no longer relevant and you can take off? Anything you remove should be saved in a file on your computer or a flash drive, in case you need to refer to it, or put it back on.

Is your contact info updated? If you have a sign-up for any goods, services, or a newsletter, does the link work? It’s time to fix all of those.

Is it time for a website redesign? Is that something you can do yourself, or something you want to hire out? Take time to think about what you want and how you want to communicate it. But spring is a good time to refresh.

Clip File/Portfolio/Samples

Hopefully, as you’ve created new work these past months, you’ve kept samples as hard copies in your clip file, and also saved or created digital copies that you can use on your website, your online portfolio, or Google Drive.

If you haven’t, now is the time to catch up. I keep several hard copies in a file folder in my filing cabinet. I also keep digital files (PDF and .doc, where appropriate) on my hard drive, my flash drive, and my backup drive, so I can use them as needed.

I check my online portfolio to see if I need to add, remove, or rearrange my samples.

Resume(s)

At this point in the game, I have a Master CV that is about 30 pages long. It is for me, not something sent out.

From that, I’ve crafted my Freelance Resume, my Theatre Resume, and my Writing Resume, which are relevant to my work. There is some overlap between these resumes, but each is geared toward the type of work in its name.

When I moved last summer, I updated all my resumes. It’s time to take another look and do it again, especially since I’m entering a grant cycle.

What do I need to add? What’s old enough it can fall off? What’s old, be relevant and stays on?

I have a version in .doc format and one in PDF. The PDF is the one I send out.

Social Media

This is a good time to clean up social media accounts. I’m not a muter; I’m either all in with people’s facets of personality, or all out. I either follow for everything, or unfollow and/or block.

I cleaned up my Twitter feed a few weeks ago, and it was wonderful. I could have actual conversations again, and I promised myself to do this more often.

Clean up feeds/followers/posts. Decide what you want the accounts to achieve. I have a personal Twitter where you take me as I am, or bye. I have a business Twitter that’s more focused on business writing, but not to the exclusion of my integrity. 

In spite of knowing better, I have several Facebook pages for the different series I write. I have a LinkedIn account for business only.

My Instagram account is for fun. Not much book promotion; no business. It focuses on cooking, gardens, cats, travel. There have been a lot of creepy accounts showing up lately on that feed, which I’ve steadily blocked, but it’s giving me pause as to whether or not I want to remain on the platform.

Cleaning up my Pinterest pages will be a long process, probably pushed off until summer, because it’s got too many tangents right now, and I’m not using it to its full potential.

Memberships

Are there any memberships, professional organizations, or other groups in which you participate? Do you need to renew any of them? Drop out of any of them? Recalibrate your relationship with any of them? Put aside a few hours to go through all the paperwork and make those decisions.

Artist Statements/Bios

If you work in the arts and apply for jobs and/or grants, you need an artist statement. It’s a good idea to revise it at least once a year (or twice a year). As your work evolves, your need to communicate how your vision evolves.

No matter what your profession, a good bio is a must. You submit it with guest blog posts, speaking engagements, conference presentations, etc.

I try to keep three versions up to date: one at 50 words, one at 100 words, and one at 250 words. I often have to tweak the versions to align with a specific usage.

Time Now Saves Time Later

Making the time to do this cleanup now will save you time and aggravation later, as opportunities arise and you have everything you need at your fingertips.

Go forth and clean!